Michael Wilson

  • diary January 05, 2016

    Dog Days of Winter

    “MAN MOLDED THE DOMESTIC DOG in his own worst image...self-righteous as a lynch mob, servile and vicious, replete with the vilest coprophagic perversions...and what other animal tries to fuck your leg? Canine claims to our affection reek of contrived and fraudulent sentimentality.” So writes a characteristically unforgiving William S. Burroughs in The Cat Inside, his late-career paean to the Internet’s favorite critter. I generally consider myself a cat person too (hi Lyle!), but when my first assignment of the new year saw me huddled in Times Square on a bitterly (if, at last, seasonably) cold

  • Jessica Sanders

    A longtime fan of beeswax owing to its gooey organic mutability, Jessica Sanders exercised admirable restraint with the potentially messy material in her recent exhibition “Ambiguous Warmth.” Her first solo appearance at this relocated gallery, the show featured just two entries from the Brooklyn artist’s ongoing “Saturation” series, 2013–, of wax-infused linen works, and in neither case was the material’s identity immediately apparent. Hung close together side by side, the pair of large, painterly works faced off against eight small wall-mounted white porcelain sculptures. The first impression

  • Sue de Beer

    “He never talked about where he was from. At the funeral, that was the most I ever heard about his life.” So begins the spoken narrative of Sue de Beer’s new two-channel video The Blue Lenses, 2014, which tells the story of Daniel, a con artist, in part through the account of a young Arab woman. Borrowing the title of a 1959 short story by the British author Daphne du Maurier in which a woman’s eye surgery mysteriously causes her to see people with fearsome animal heads in place of their own, de Beer’s beguiling tale also deals in confused appearances and assumed roles.

    The work’s abutted

  • Fiona Connor

    The fountain has a storied and—given its outwardly prosaic nature—oddly auspicious history in modern and contemporary art: from Duchamp’s foundational icon (actually a urinal, of course) to more recent examples including Bruce Nauman’s gushing self portrait of 1966–67; Helen Chadwick’s excremental chocolate-lover’s dream/nightmare Cacao, 1994; and the spouting-nippled Christ that formed the centerpiece of Robert Gober’s solo exhibition at Matthew Marks Gallery in 2005. Something about this technically simple bit of plumbing—perhaps owing to its sometimes-awkward fusion of humble

  • Rosa Aiello

    “Just walk in a straight line. . . . Go ahead, forward. . . . Proceed straight ahead, go on, go on. . . .” Though sometimes indistinct, at one point dropping to an intimate but distorted whisper, the voice-over in Rosa Aiello’s video A River in It, 2015, doesn’t let up for more than a few seconds of the work’s nearly ten-minute duration. Directing its unseen subject (the viewer?) ever onward, it varies in tone from reassuring (“Whoops, careful. . . . It’s OK, go ahead”) to official (“At this time, keep going straight”) to impatient (“Don’t stop! Why are you stopping?”) to bullying (“You have no

  • Julia Wachtel

    In Stripe, 2014, the friezelike centerpiece of her recent exhibition “Empowerment,” Julia Wachtel pairs silk-screened images of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un with painted cartoons of South Korean pop star Psy, singer of the once ubiquitous “Gangnam Style.” The juxtaposition is cemented visually by the gray band that gives the work its title. In comparing these figures, the artist prompts us to ask where real power lies—totalitarian military might or Web-age celebrity—and how the mass media work to reinforce or undermine its status. It’s an area that Wachtel, influenced by the

  • diary August 02, 2015

    Everything Is Everything

    AS THE ESTABLISHED New York art world decamps to the Hamptons and beyond, crowds at the season’s concluding events tend to be smaller, noticeably younger, and, arguably, more carefree; when the carnival leaves town, the pressure’s off. What degree of rigor can one realistically demand when the dog days hit and any given destination is rated by the efficacy of its air-conditioning? The recent launch of Everything, a suite of public sculptures by Stockholm-born, New York–based artist Hanna Liden, organized by Art Production Fund, didn’t even have the luxury of an indoor location, so there was a

  • diary June 30, 2015

    Dream a Little Dream

    PROHIBITED FROM SPEAKING, applauding, taking photographs, making recordings, eating, drinking, or—in observance of a traditional Indian custom—pointing their feet in the direction of the performers, the crowd at the first of three concerts of raga darbari (a variant on the Indian classical form) given by minimalist pioneer LaMonte Young and his Just Alap Raga Ensemble at the Dia Center’s Twenty-Second Street Chelsea digs on a recent Friday evening was never going to start much of a party. Fortunately, the 150-odd studious attendees seemed perfectly content with the demands imposed on them, happy

  • Athanasios Argianas

    In his sophomore exhibition at this gallery, “Swimmer’s Arms Are Oars,” the Athens-born Athanasios Argianas continued to explore “the space between the senses” in an elegant group of sculptures, photographs, and works on paper that jibe with his dual roles of visual artist and electroacoustic-pop composer. Argianas’s practice combines a fascination with the resonance of fragmented language—the shards of text that he incorporates (often almost invisibly) into his objects evoke snatches of overheard conversation—with a sensitivity to physical proportion and the interaction of built

  • Molly Smith

    While the claim to have merged art and life is a perennial and universal cliché, it rarely holds water, functioning more often as a highfalutin excuse for doing nothing much. But when a change in an artist’s practical circumstances—whether planned or accidental—forces her creative practice and day-to-day routine into closer-than-usual proximity, the results can prove serendipitously engaging. On the evidence of Molly Smith’s recent exhibition “Hours,” this holds true in the relocation of the artist and her partner to rural western Massachusetts in the spring of 2013. The move left

  • Kamau Amu Patton

    In Kamau Amu Patton’s recent exhibition, chaotic input gave rise to surprisingly orderly results. Using electronic feedback as a generative force work, Patton allowed the technological to bleed into the more outwardly organic, showing multilayered prints rendered from screen grabs of a video produced by training a camera on a monitor receiving that camera’s signal. He also employed sound, broadcasting a related audio piece, via FM radio, into the gallery space and beyond.

    Occupying the walls of the main gallery were seven large, scroll-like, unstretched canvases silk-screened—three times

  • Ryan McNamara

    “This guy,” says Ryan McNamara, holding up a small black-and-white photographic cutout, “was a contestant in a dance contest I held in Buenos Aires. The entire dance floor was full of 150 people all melting on top of each other and rolling all over each other.” The fond recollection, and the frenetic clip that follows it, appears in a video on McNamara’s website in which the artist introduces his practice, a singular blend of image- and object making, dance and performance, choreography and participation. McNamara’s recent exhibition “Gently Used” may have seemed like an odd fit for this uptown

  • Jason Kraus

    Titled “Finished Objects,” Jason Kraus’s recent exhibition certainly had a degree of polish, in that the show also incorporated mass-produced artifacts that are “finished” insofar as they have already been manufactured, bought, sold, and sometimes used—but these sculptural groupings are hardly an end point. Rather, they represent just the most recent stage in a system of acquisition, combination, and presentation that extends back to previous bodies of work and seems unlikely to stop with this one. The show’s five pieces, all from 2014, were assemblages of consumer goods encased in shelving

  • Michael Wang

    If Rite-Aid had ever taken a chance on Donald Judd, Carl Andre, or Haim Steinbach as shelf stockers, your local drugstore might have looked something like “Rivals,” Michael Wang’s recent exhibition at Andrea Rosen Gallery’s compact annex space. Ranged around the walls were five immaculate powder-coated aluminum display units tailored to the containment of selected consumer goods—cigarettes, sneakers, painkillers, bottled water, and nail polish, respectively. Each extended row of objects consists of multiple identical examples of equivalent products manufactured by a pair of rival corporations,

  • Derrick Alexis Coard

    “My work is a form of testimonial where black men can be seen in a more positive and righteous light.” So says Derrick Alexis Coard, a Brooklyn artist who since 2006 has been affiliated with Healing Arts Initiative (HAI), a New York–based agency that works with artists who suffer from mental illness or developmental disability, or who are of advanced age. Coard’s use of the word righteous reveals his spiritual leanings, as does his account of discovering that “the bearded look is the image God favored when speaking through Moses.” The artist began making drawings of imaginary bearded black men

  • Peter Stichbury

    “In the afternoon of April 6, 1966, one of the most famous UFO cases in the world occurred over a school in Westall, Australia,” begins a passage on a handout that accompanied “Anatomy of a Phenomenon,” New Zealand painter Peter Stichbury’s recent exhibition. “Pupils and teachers were told not to talk about what they had seen, and the chemistry teacher, Barbara Robbins, who had taken photos with her camera, was forced by authorities to hand it over.” In Stichbury’s portrait of the woman, Ms. Robbins is depicted as an oval-faced blonde with haunted, wide-set eyes that suggest the persistence of

  • diary December 12, 2014

    Swiss Mix

    JUST BEFORE the moneyed and/or aspirational art world decamped for Miami Beach, members of that self-same crew made their way through the blustery night to the Swiss Institute for their annual benefit. Arriving unaccompanied at the institution’s silvered Wooster Street digs—formerly Jeffrey Deitch’s HQ, as if any reminder were needed—I was immediately buttonholed by intense art historian Lorena Morales Aparicio, who filled me in on the subject of her doctoral thesis-in-progress, contemporary Swiss touchstone Pipilotti Rist. This developed with unnerving rapidity into a discussion of the finer

  • Amy Feldman

    There’s a photograph in the catalogue for Amy Feldman’s exhibition “High Sign” that depicts one of her large square canvases being winched out of the artist’s Brooklyn studio. As the painting hovers momentarily in front of an open garage door, the bushy-looking, ring-like form that occupies its lower three quarters is juxtaposed with the building’s upper windows to give the squat two-story structure what looks like a bearded face. Whether this mildly comical anthropomorphic effect was intentional is unclear, but the shot nonetheless announces the witty ambiguity of Feldman’s compositions; as

  • Helene Appel

    Absorbed by the careful rendering of everyday objects and materials, German artist Helene Appel transforms the surfaces of her variously sized canvases into trays or tabletops, across which generally unremarkable things appear to have been scattered or spilled. In this, her US solo debut, Appel presented entries from three new groups of work—devoted to fabric, meat, and plastic, respectively—alongside other, closely related pieces. In each case, the painter’s handling is delicate and detailed, but never so rigorously illusionistic that the structure of the support is forgotten. Appel’s

  • Florian Maier-Aichen

    In the most recent phase of his ongoing exploration of the photographic medium, Florian Maier-Aichen travels simultaneously forward and backward in time, filtering the conventions of Romantic landscape painting through contemporary image-processing technology, and pursuing abstraction via physical and optical methods associated with both pre- and post-darkroom techniques and aesthetics. In his fourth solo appearance at this gallery, the German artist continued to apply his mix-and-match approach, presenting a spare installation of large prints, all, bar one, in lush, sometimes eccentric color.